The Ugandan government has implemented a tax on all citizens to gain access to social media services. This imposition of tax was made effective on Sunday, 1st July. On a per day basis, the users will have to pay 200 Ugandan Shillings (Shs) to continue using social media including WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, and Skype. In addition. These payments are to be made in advance
Uganda’s GDP: tax ratio as the main motive for imposing the tax.
using mobile phone.
This law will likely affect accessibility of the Internet of Ugandan citizens. The country only has a 22% Internet penetration and this will only decrease with the Internet becoming costlier for the average citizen. The Alliance for Affordable Internet has estimated that this tax will lead to 1GB data Internet costing as much as 40% of the country’s average citizen income. There is no question that this tax will significantly affect the ability of Ugandan citizens to maintain high Internet usage.
The Rationale behind the Tax
The Ugandan President, Museveni, issued a statement on his personal blog to explain why the decision to impose tax on social media services has been made. Basically, the president has cited improvement in Uganda’s GDP: tax ratio as the main motive for imposing the tax.
However, given recent history of online regulation in Uganda, it seems the government has greater reasons they have explicitly stated. In this decade, Uganda has introduced or amended a number of laws to control the kind of content Ugandan citizens can create or consume. Over the years, there have been several instances of individual arrests of social media activists and bloggers.
As such, it is difficult to believe that GDP to tax ratio improvement is the only rationale behind this tax implementation. If recent history is anything to go by, then this tax is simply another approach adopted by the government to suppress freedom of expression.
Activists, citizens, and organizations have strongly criticized the tax. Here is Amnesty International’s tweet on the issue:
Uganda's social media tax has been criticised by Amnesty International.
Amnesty International called on #Uganda to scap the tax, saying it robbed “many people of their right to freedom of expression, with a chilling effect on other human rights”. pic.twitter.com/us2EDzLsaW
— TUJAGUZE AFRICA (@africa_tujaguze) July 2, 2018
ActionAid Uganda similarly condemned the social media tax:
Mobile money tax and social media tax is squeezing blood out of Ugandans! Say no to #socialmediatax.
— ActionAid Uganda (@actionaiduganda) July 4, 2018
Search for VPNs Trending in Uganda
As soon as the levy on social media was implemented, a large number Ugandans took to searching for a way to avoid taxes and still access social media. Using a Ugandan VPN is one of the easiest ways to void the social media tax and access all services. In fact, Google trends showed a sudden rise in VPN related searches.
This shows that the interest VPN services is at its peak in Uganda. The trend is understandable, since VPN services offer a considerable benefits. For instance, VPN allows users to circumvent blocking of social media services by masking their IP address. In this way, a Ugandan user can make it seem as if he is located in a different country.
This enables them to experience Internet in the same way as the users connected to the VPN server’s location. Thus, using a Uganda VPN, it is fairly simple to bypass restrictions on social media services.
The Ugandan government has already anticipated the increase in interest in VPNs, following the tax imposition. The country’s Communications Commission Executive Director, Godfrey Mutabazi, has instructed local ISPs to block VPNs. Nonetheless, the VPN market is huge and it is unlikely that the government will be block every VPN service out there. Mutabazi himself has admitted to this.
Furthermore, Mutabazi vehemently stated that citizens can obtain no advantage by using a VPN to evade tax. This is because most VPN services cost more than the $1.56 tax amount, so a VPN might incur greater costs than simply paying the tax. Nonetheless, there are several VPN providers that offer free service.
Moreover, many individuals might be opposed to the tax as a matter of principle rather than simply finding a way to save additional costs. For these individuals, a VPN can be a great tool to access social media apps in Uganda without providing the government with an unreasonable tax imposition.
In fact, citizens might be drawn towards the use of VPN as an act of protest and regain their online autonomy without paying needless taxes.
Best VPN for Uganda
A VPN can allow you to exercise your right to freedom of speech and protest anti-freedom laws of the government. Most leading VPN services offer the added benefit of providing you with extra security and privacy. This enables you to express yourself freely on the Internet without worrying about the government tracing your identity or location.
You can also read our blog on the best VPN services to find out more about the leading providers in the market.
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PureVPN covers almost every country in the world with it widely spaced out server network. Using PureVPN, users can easily access blocked websites from anywhere in the world. Moreover, you can do so with the assurance that your online activities will be kept hidden from the view of your ISP or government. Therefore, PureVPN is the ideal solution to the restrictions being faced by Ugandan citizens.
You can read more about PureVPN in our exclusive PureVPN review.
NordVPN is a popular VPN provider that offers the largest network of servers among all providers in the market. NordVPN has more than 4,600 VPN servers located in more 62 countries. Using these servers, you can access almost any content irrespective of geo-restrictions. In addition, it uses exceptionally strong encryption using double VPN technology. NordVPN is arguably one of the best VPNs for Uganda that you can have.
For more information on this VPN provider, read our detailed NordVPN review.
ExpressVPN is based in British Virgin Islands. It uses strong military-grade encryption that ensures user data remains secure and private. The number of servers of ExpressVPN has reached more than 1,700 servers distributed in 94 countries. Although ExpressVPN is slightly more expensive than most other providers in the market, there is no doubt as to the excellent quality of its services.
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PrivateVPN offers exceptionally fast servers to users. Although its network of servers is relatively small, it uses robust 2048-bit encryption that grants users that extra bit of security to evade your government’s spying. With PrivateVPN, you can obtain unlimited bandwidth and gain access streaming services, torrents, and any blocked website. In the present industry, there aren’t many providers that offer better performance than PrivateVPN.
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Ivacy is a cost-effective VPN provider that offers impressive features for user. It comes with a built-in automatic kill switch to protect user’s identity from being exposed to the regular Internet. Furthermore, Ivacy supports advanced encryption protocols to ensure the security of users and prevent any attacks. The fact that it is fairly cheap makes Ivacy a great option for Ugandan people searching for a decent VPN.
Find out more about Ivacy in our comprehensive Ivacy review.
The imposition of taxes for usage of social media services in Uganda is an affront to online freedom of citizens. Public outrage is strongly poised against the government for introducing social media taxation. As a result, the demand for VPN services for Uganda is on a rise. These VPN services offer disgruntled population of Uganda to protest against arbitrary taxation through evasion and expressing their thoughts freely.
It remains to be seen if the Ugandan government will knuckle under public pressure and reverse the taxation. Uganda is need of progressive policies that promote Internet accessibility rather than laws that discourage freedom of expression.
What are your thoughts on the recently introduced social media taxes in Uganda? Leave a comment below.